The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What music would celebrate Super Bowl XLIX – that’s 49 in plain English – that takes place this afternoon? Plus, the Con Vivo chamber music concert this afternoon in Stoughton has been POSTPONED until next Sunday night.

February 1, 2015
3 Comments

ALERT: The administration of the Stoughton Opera House has decided to postpone the chamber music concert by Con Vivo (below) scheduled for this afternoon, Feb. 1, due to the anticipated snow storm.

The new concert date and time is: next Sunday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Stoughton Opera House. Please help spread the word to anyone you know who might have been planning to come to the concert. Says the group: “We look forward to seeing you next week! Stay safe and warm. Thank you.”

Con Vivo core musicians

By Jacob Stockinger

Today, Super Bowl XLIX — or 49 to most of us — will be played between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots in Glendale, Arizona.

Super Bowl 49 social media logos

Kickoff time is 5:30 p.m., CST.

It will be broadcast on NBC.

The game is billed as the world’s largest single sports event.

Given the number of people it will reach via TV and other social media, and given the advertising price of $4.5 million for a 30-second spot, that description sounds pretty accurate.

Super Bowl XLIX no cactus

Here are some suggestions from past years:

Super Bowl 48 in 2014:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/classical-music-what-classical-music-goes-best-with-the-nfls-super-bowl-48-football-championship-today-plus-university-of-wisconsin-madison-singers-and-instrumentalists-movingly-celebrate-franz-s/

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2014/02/02/classical-music-what-classical-music-goes-best-with-the-nfls-super-bowl-48-football-championship-today-plus-university-of-wisconsin-madison-singers-and-instrumentalists-movingly-celebrate-franz-s/

football

Super Bowl 47 in 2013, which drew a lot of reader suggestions and comments:

https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/classical-music-what-classical-music-goes-best-with-super-bowl-47-today-since-there-are-fewer-live-concerts-to-attend-that-conflict-with-the-football-game/

Let us know what you think.

The Ear wants to hear.

 


Classical music: Court victories favoring same-sex marriage equality and an extended Valentine’s Day weekend add up to a magical and loving mix for musical partners, including opera star Patricia Racette, who comes out as a lesbian.

February 16, 2014
3 Comments

ALERT: If you are undecided about going to this afternoon’s concert at 2:30 p.m. in Overture Hall by the Madison Symphony Orchestra with Norwegian trumpet soloist Tine Thing Helseth (below), here are links to positive reviews by John W. Barker for Isthmus and by Greg Hettmansberger for Madison Magazine’s blog “Classically Speaking”:

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=42078&sid=4d977189e5be9d039af0d641c547219f

http://www.madisonmagazine.com/Blogs/Classically-Speaking/February-2014/Madison-Symphony-Gives-the-Large-Variety-Box-for-Valentines-Day/

Tine Thing Helseth big profile

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, when a holiday falls on a Friday – like Valentine’s Day this year — one can be forgiven for prolonging it over the weekend, don’t you think?

But it seems a good chance to blend two recent stories and trend lines that are increasingly coming together.

And coming out.

One is the recent various court victories for marriage equality, or same-sex marriage, or gay marriage. Whatever you want to call it, it seems to becoming more and more a legal and social reality with every week that passes.

gay marriage in suits

And those legal victories lead to more and more gays and lesbians coming out, including the star football player and top NFL draft possibility star Michael Sam (below top) and “Juno” actress Ellen Page (below bottom).

Here is a link to a New York Times story about Michael Sam:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/10/sports/michael-sam-college-football-star-says-he-is-gay-ahead-of-nfl-draft.html?_r=0

Michael Sam in football uniform

And here is a link to a Washington Post story about Ellen Page:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/juno-actress-ellen-page-comes-out-as-gay/2014/02/15/f3327800-9627-11e3-ae45-458927ccedb6_story.html

Ellen Page

As for Valentine’s Day, imagine what how rewarding it could be to work cooperatively in the performing arts with your life partner and love.

That is exactly what was documented in a recent story on NPR’s great blog “Deceptive Cadence.”

NPR highlighted various musical couples in classical music who met in a musical setting and fell in love while working, and who now get to work together.

And for good measure, they included the Metropolitan Opera star soprano Patricia Racette (below top, out of costume, and below bottom in the title role of Puccini’s “Tosca”), who openly talks about what a great marriage she has with her female partner. (You can hear Patricia Racette as the title character Cio-Cio-San sing the finale of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera in a popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

Patricia Racette soprano

Patricia Racette in Tosca

Of course, most of the couples are heterosexual in the story just as they are in real life. And we have seen some of them – tenor Stephen Costello (below top) at the Madison Opera‘s Opera in the Park as well as cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han (below bottom) at the Wisconsin Union Theater, in Madison.

Fort Worth Opera 2008

Wu Han and David Finckel BIG

But it is both sensitive and brave of NPR, which is always under the gun and budget knife of the self-righteous and nutty right-wing extremists and homophobes, to do the story.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/02/11/273159447/classical-couples-sweethearts-sharing-the-stage

One can only hope and imagine the chain reaction that is to happen as each coming out brings several more, as bravery and tolerance build, and as the visible becomes visible.

Saint Valentine -– at least my Saint Valentine — would be very pleased.

Saint Valentine

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Classical music: Opera diva Renee Fleming will sing the National Anthem to open the NFL Super Bowl XVIII (48) next Sunday. But WHY and HOW did that happen and WHAT does it mean for professional music and professional sports?

January 26, 2014
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

What is THIS all about?

Next Sunday -– a week from today – is Superbowl XVLIII (that’s 48 in plain English numerals — does the NFL think Latin adds class to football?)) between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. It will be held in bad cold weather in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. That’s the football game where the best seats are going for more than $25,000. (Where are you now, Tony Soprano?) Not that a wealth gap exists between professional sports like football (below) and the rest of America. Oh, no — never that.

football

And guess who will sing the national anthem, the tricky “The Star-Spangled Banner,” to open the show – and it is a show. None other than superstar soprano Renee Fleming (below).

reneefleming

Yep, the lovely and gifted opera diva herself.

Now, I am not about to complain about a classical music star getting a chance for such exposure. But it does makes you wonder how it happened.

Did her agent approach the NFL?

Or did the billionaire-packed NFL decide on its own — somewhere in its posh 280 Fifth Avenue headquarters (below top is the exterior, below bottom is the interview its tacky half-Football Desk) that are tax-exempt – that it would buy some highbrow class and at the same time help the cause of classical music and maybe build a new audience?

NFL headquarters 280 Park Ave

Inside NFL headquarters

The Ear can’t imagine it was done by popular choice, under pressure from the fans.

And WHY was it done?

Did a lot of classical music presenters, who already realize that it is commercial suicide to hold a concert on Super Bowl Day, think to put some class into the Super Bowl and not risk bad attendance?

Was it just out of a taste for variety?

Fleming, who has a deep background in jazz and popular music, will probably nail it of course.

But will Renee Fleming create the same kind of rowdy, over-the-top atmosphere that is appropriate to the occasion as some bluesy-gospel, pop-rock or hip-hop star rendition would? Sure, Fleming sells a lot of records and tickets — but nowhere near as much as the superstars in those others genres of music do.

I guess we will see.

If she goes over well, maybe they can book her for the half-time act in a couple of years. But someone like superstar pianist Lang Lang (below), who will perform with metal rockers Metallica at this year’s Grammy Awards to be broadcast live tonight, seems a more likely candidate. Why book Rubinstein when you can get Liberace?

Lang Lang goofy

Well, at least folks at the Super Bowl can feel as classy as the Metropolitan Opera folks for a couple of minutes –- until the concussions start.

I don’t know if we will ever get the back story about the why and the how. But here is a link to the story that NPR’s excellent Deceptive Cadence blog had about Renee Fleming and the Super Bowl.

It is good, short and to the point, even if it doesn’t move beyond the headlines.

See what you think.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2014/01/21/264553311/guess-whos-singing-the-national-anthem-at-the-super-bowl

And for True Fans, here is a link to the official NFL Super Bowl 48 site, loaded with information and complete with a clock counting down to the coin toss and kickoff:

http://www.nfl.com/superbowl/48

What would be a good, an appropriate opera aria to mark the Super Bowl? How about Puccini’s “Nessum dorma” (“No one sleeps”) from “Turandot,” below in a popular YouTube video with almost 9 million hits. It features tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who made it his signature aria, and it shows the last time he sang it in 2006 at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. Look at the sets. Listen to the crowd going wild. It seems in keeping with the Super Bowl, no?

But if you can suggest another choice, The Ear wants to hear it.

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Classical music: Here is a “Fantasy Football and Fugue” to accompany prep, college and especially NFL football this weekend.

September 21, 2013
3 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

You don’t usually identity football – American football (below), not soccer — with classical music and especially playing the piano.

football

But now an American musician and instrumentalist from the West Coast has put together a new work called the “Fullback Fugue” that you might find a good accompaniment to football.

And the weekend is the heavy time for prep, college and professional NFL football.

It was posted on the famed classical music radio station WQXR in New York City. But you can also see it on YouTube, where it has garnered almost 25,000 hits since it was posted on Sept. 4.

A musician from Portland, Ore., named Ansel Wallenfang has created “Fantasy Football & Fugue,” a video featuring a fugue built of NFL themes from the four networks that broadcast pro football games (FOX, NBC, CBS, ESPN).

Ansel Wallenfang

He even performs it in full costume — or  should I say, “uniform” — with cleats and jersey, helmet and knuckle tape.

Now, given the football themes, just because the piece uses polyphony in the form of a fugue doesn’t automatically qualify it as classical music – though it does make it a classic curiosity for sure.

The Ear think it sounds rather like bad Rachmaninoff, or maybe a pedantically dry Bach toccata as transcribed by Busoni or some other bass-heavy Romantic piano virtuoso and transcriber.

But I’ll let you decide for yourselves whether the four-minute work is just a gimmick or a genuine, if admittedly derivative, work of classical music and tell me in the COMMENTS section what you think of it and what it sound like.

So go ahead: tackle it -– so to speak.

Here it is, including the composer’s comments about his intent, which he says:

“If football and classical piano were any more similar they would be the same thing.

“Both are fiercely competitive.
Both require violence, elegance, and nerves of steel.
Both demand a lifetime of intense training and discipline.
Both promise fame and glory but usually lead to working with kids.
Both will leave you with some sort of brain trauma.
But both will totally get you laid.

“The Fantasy Football and Fugue isn’t just a bad music pun, it’s a classical mashup of network NFL anthems (CBS, ESPN, FOX, and NBC) that would make Bach and Butkus proud.

Through the lens of classical music and short film, I hope to open these seemingly dissimilar fields to new audiences, sign a multi-million dollar development deal with a major Hollywood studio, become friends with Aaron Rodgers, and not get sued by 4 networks simultaneously.”

Now, it’s kickoff time — so on to the music:

Spread the word — and of course the music — to other football fans.

Remember to tell me how it scores in your playbook.

The Ear wants to hear.


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